First World Parenting, Ice Cream, and Relative Risk.

My kid has what can only be described as an infinity cold. Sometime, maybe three weeks ago, the virus sunk it's talons into my kid's nose holes and it  just won't let go. She's coughing, spluttering, wheezing, and leaking yellow gunk.

I'm worried about her health only insofar as she's tired, and unhappy, which causes my motherly instincts to rise to cajole and comfort my baby. And further, let's be honest here, it's inconvenient to have a sick and cranky kid.

Such are the privileges of being a first world parent. 

Inconvenience not withstanding, I feel as though it's only right that I indulge her whims, dietary and otherwise, and feed her the staples that are the birthright of the North American sickie: chicken soup (well, in her case, bakso soup) orange juice, and ice cream. 

 The latter indulgence caused much distress to my child's Indonesain paediatrician as well as to Stella's nanny, both of whom were convinced that I was risking my child's wellbeing and chances of a speedy recovery by offering her ice cream as a balm after a particularly uncomfortable doctor's visit. They told me that the cold ice cream was dangerous, that cold foods could cause an adverse reaction, and would make her illness more intense. This I brushed off, thinking of trips into the firdged air to ease croup symptoms and unending Popsicles to sooth sore little throats. 

 

Yet, the degree to which my doctor's concern with regard to my caviller attitude towards ice cream for sick kids troubled her gave me pause. So too did our nanny's insistence that I keep Stella home from school and dose her full of medication at the first sign of a runny nose. Perhaps I was wrong? Perhaps I was being too apathetic about my child's health?

 

And then I read this post about the difficulty of keeping young children safe in Indonesia where car seats, baby gates and all the modern trappings of infant safety are largely absent, or at best, simply not used. Rachel writes of her frustration with the standard practice to keep dangerous cleaning products within easy reach of toddlers, and not a second thought is given to boiling pots of water left unattended right at child height. 

 

My own observations include parents who regularly allow children to sit on their laps in the front seat, children bounding around the back of cars with no seatbelt. And the ubiquitous two-wheeled minivan (aka motorcycle carrying an entire helmetless family, babies and all.) 

 

How can we square these polarities with regard to childhood security? What sort of cognitive dissonance is at play when tiny colds are conflated to massively dangerous illness that need immediate medical attention and plenty of drugs, while what are, to the North American mind, common sense safety practices, are ignored entirely?

 

And so, I started thinking about life, living conditions, and the relativity or risk. 

 

Disclaimer: This is a theory is composed by someone who has all the expertise of a non-Indonesian sojourner with two months residency under her belt, so take this with a grain of salt.  Or perhaps half a grain. 

 

When you live in a country where less than half of one percent of the population can afford to own a car, the only viable options to traverse sprawling cities are dodgy and unreliable public busses, and the omnipresent motorcycle. Airplane tickets are mostly out of reach for the average Indonesian, so creaky and barely seaworthy ferries convey people people to their home islands. 

Deadly crashes and shipwrecks are a fact of life, and the price of admission for taking a trip to your home village or even going to work. If an average Indonesian wants to go anywhere, be it a short distance, or a long trip home, she'll be traveling along potholed roads, up and down hills with hairpin turns aplenty and a total dearth of barriers to prevent plummeting down cliffs. She'll likely sit on the back of a motorcycle without a helmet while dodging erratic drivers.

 

Within this context, the passenger in an inclosed vehicle feels virtually indestructible. Much better to keep your kid on your lap without a seatbelt inside the protective walls of a car than on the back of a motorcycle without a helmet. Similarly, in the context of a country kids die of all sorts of diseases, simple and complex, the risk of one kid falling off a porch, or dumping a boiling pot of water, or even drinking insecticide might somehow become lightened given the situation in which he lives. 

 

When dangers are such an ever-present part of life, what's a sharp corner on a table, a shoddy wired outlet,  or a stray bottle of bleach.

 

More dangerous are childhood diseases. Three-and-a-half percent of all kids in this country will die before they reach age five, but as recently as 1990, 8.5 percent of kids could be expected to die before their fifth birthday. That kind of insecurity stays with a population, ingrained deeply in the psyche, I think.  It must alter the perception of risk. The fear of an illness, even something as innocuous as a cold, is quite real in this context, and so it becomes so much more important to medicate a runny nose, to stay away from cold foods when sick, to rush to the doctor at the first sign of a headache. Controlling one's medical care is much more realistic than controlling one's access to safe transportation, or preventing the inevitable physical dangers that lurk everywhere. 

 

That's just my two cents, my half-formed theory bread by the boredom of becoming a shut-in for a weekend with a sick kid. 

 

What do you think? Am I on to something or totally full of dangerous typhoid poo-poo? 

 

This post was sponsored by Baby & Co. As always the content herein in mine alone.